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The end of liberal Zionism

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If you can count to 61, and can read the Israeli polls, then the broad outline of the 2019 elections was clear to you even as they were declared. 61 is the magic number: a majority out of 120. Whoever manages to get the support of 61 and more Members of Knesset, will be Prime Minister. The rest is noise.

Not a single poll put Netanyahu’s coalition under 61 seats. Generally, the polls gave him 64 to 67 seats. The results as they are now (with full counting of all polls, but not including the soldiers’ vote, and historically they lean right) give Netanuahu a steady coalition of 65 seats. This may not the coalition he wishes he had, but he’ll use. The rest, again, is noise.

As the result was pretty much preordained, the interesting story coming out of this election is the wiping out of the democratic bloc. Labor has six seats, Hadash-Taal have six, Meretz has four, and Balad also four. Total: 20. One-sixth of the Knesset.

One should not consider Gantz’s party a part of the democratic bloc, since it is technically a soft-right party (with some hardline rightwingers included, such as Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon). Blue and White is not a party, technically: it is a bloc of three parties (Gantz’s section, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, and Yaalon’s Telem). Of the three factions, only Yesh Atid has any experience as a bona fide party.

Blue and White, and to a certain extent Labor as well, showed their true colors by bending over backwards to the right-wingers: They repeatedly said they will not accept the Israeli Palestinian parties as partners. Avi Gabbay, leader of Labor, tried to tone it down in the last few weeks, but few paid attention – as everyone remembered how he hounded Zouheir Bahloul, a moderate Israeli Palestinian MK, out of the party. Labor and Blue and White mimicked Netanyahu’s performance in 2015: they didn’t want anything to do with Israeli Palestinians.

And then they panicked, when they realized Israeli Palestinians had little incentive to go to the polls in order to be treated as pariahs. Possibly the most disgusting sight of the last days of the elections was Zionists begging Palestinians to go and vote, and then condemning those benighted savages, half devil and half child, of not knowing what was good for them, as their good masters did.

The result of the Nationality Law, dismay with the endless quarrels within the Joint List of Palestinian parties, and the attitude of the Gantzians and Labor convinced most of the Palestinian voters to stay home. Only 43% voted – and most of the votes came in the late hours, after a massive get out the vote effort following the news that by 16:00 only 15% voted.

So much for the good news. The bad news is that the soldiers’ vote may yet sink the Palestinian bloc, Raam Balad, and bring in Naftali Bennett’s party, the New Right. This will bring the democratic bloc down to 16 votes.

There are a few conclusions following the vote:

1. Israel’s democracy is deeply flawed. This is Netanyahu’s best result ever, and he received it even when going to the polls under the shade of three indictments. A third of the public simply doesn’t care, at best, or lost all belief in Israel’s justice institutes, at worst. Any would-be tinpot dictator could use these people.

2. Liberal Zionism is dead. At best it has 10 seats in the Knesset (Labor and Meretz). Anyone who still thinks Israel “shares values” with the West ought to wake up and smell the coffee.

3. We are all Jewish Supremacists now, but you knew that already.

While the results were a forgone conclusion, and while we had some pleasant surprises (foot and Temple fetishist Moshe Feiglin is out, and in all likelihood so is Naftali Bennett), it still feels like a kick in the stomach. Waking up, you realize the coming years are going to be even harder for the remnants of the liberal camp in Israel. You realize that another round of violence with the occupied Palestinians is almost a certainty, and that rivers of blood are going to flow. You realize you represent, at best, some 8% of Israelis. You realize you’re now in the illegitimate, borderline-dissident side of politics.

You look for the silver lining: The understanding among liberal activists that they won’t be able to ever win elections, or at least lose them with a respectful margin, without working with Israeli Palestinians. The next few years will show whether this understanding can be translated into political action.

I won’t lie and say I’m optimistic. We are moving through a strong illiberal period, and a black International is on the rise, from Russia through the US and here. The wheel will turn, at one point – history loves cycles – but there is no telling who might be squashed under it as it turns.

Then again, we don’t have the luxury of giving up, or the privilege of despairing. Stiff upper lip, then. It will be a long slog.

Yossi Gurvitz

Yossi Gurvitz is a journalist and a blogger, and has covered the occupation extensively.

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34 Responses

  1. YoniFalic on April 10, 2019, 11:58 am

    I long ago concluded that it makes more sense for anyone with a sense of right and wrong to leave the State of Israel and to work for its abolition from the outside

    1) because international law is incompatible with the existence of the State of Israel and

    2) because the State of Israel is a criminal state, which is founded through genocide after Auschwitz and after the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal.

    The State of Israel continues to perpetrate acts of genocide before the eyes of the world.

    Once the full magnitude of the evil of the State of Israel is understood. American supporters of Israel become criminals under 18 U.S. Code § 1091 (Genocide).

    • Citizen on April 10, 2019, 1:14 pm

      They were still hanging Nazi leaders at Nuremberg in 1946 when the Zionist Jews were planning Nakba for late 1947.
      What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know

      • YoniFalic on April 10, 2019, 2:30 pm

        Under 18 U.S. Code § 1091 (Genocide) American genocidaires, i.e., those that join the IDF or that conspire with the colonial-settler invader-genocidaires and that meet the jurisdiction requirements of paragraph (e), are eligible for hanging on a per offense basis.

        For this reason the case al-Tamimi et al. v. Adelson et al. is extremely important.

      • oldgeezer on April 10, 2019, 9:51 pm

        Great link Citizen. You can feel his pain, anger and resolute nature in that interview.

        Contrast that with yonah’s whiney yes it’s bad but there’s no other option for Israel but to continue to commit human rights violations. The most cowardly, insignificant even irrelevant, position a person can take.

    • Kay24 on April 10, 2019, 5:37 pm

      You forgot to add Israel has behaved like that criminal state, because of America’s aid, weapons, and support. America has enabled the pariah state to perpetrate the worst war crimes, and get away with it.

    • Jejasalo on April 11, 2019, 9:14 pm

      The problem with this post is that it is hyperbolic and partially incorrect. The other problem is that a lot of it is true and written with moral indignation (as it should be, in my opinion).

      If the moral outrage and facts could be combined without the exaggeration I think you’d be right on.

      Israel has not committed-and is not committing- genocide. It is destroying a whole people, but not by killing them.

      In some ways, the process of gradual suffocation and torture the Palestinians continue to endure hasn’t yet been adequately defined. Is it crueler than death to do what Israel has been doing? Sometimes I think so.

      It’s a slow, psychological destruction, a wearing down of the national and collective spirit, that is almost unimaginable especially when one tries to think of historical parallels.

      • echinococcus on April 11, 2019, 11:02 pm

        “Israel has not committed-and is not committing- genocide. It is destroying a whole people, but not by killing them.”

        Bullshit. Read the UN Conventiion on genocide and the relevant side docs, all by Lemkin himself. And stop listening to, and amplifying, Ziopanda.

      • YoniFalic on April 12, 2019, 2:13 am

        I am getting tired of ignorance about anti-genocide law either internationally or in US code.

        Physical destruction does not require murder.

        Hitler started to commit genocide in 1933 when he took power. The Holocaust does not start unofficially until 1941 and officially until Wannsee Conference in 1942.

        Israel commits acts of genocide (both actus reus and also mens rea) before the eyes of the world.

        US supporters of Israel either incite genocide or conspire in genocide.

        Read the penalty for 18 U.S. Code § 1091 (Genocide). It is harsh.

        The true effort of pro-Palestinian activists consists of making Americans understand that Israel was founded in a criminal act of genocide and is maintained by ongoing criminal acts of genocide both by the colonial-settler invader-genocidaires and also by US Israel supporters.

        It sounds difficult, but the creation of such a consciousness brought about both the abolition of US slavery and also the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War.

        The effort should be easier today because the Republican Party has become the party of supporting genocide (i.e., Israel and Netanyahu, who is today’s version of the pre-WW2 Hitler, who was committing genocide but not yet the Holocaust). The Democratic Party can’t make a meaningful distinction by claiming to support Israel but not Netanyahu, who was democratically elected by the criminal racist colonial-settler invader-genocidaire conglomeration.

  2. wondering jew on April 10, 2019, 12:07 pm

    “Stiff upper lip.” Did you ever see Alec Guiness in the 1950 “Last Holiday”?

    we know who gantz and crew are, but we don’t know who their voters are. many people could have voted for gantz even if in their heart they are herzog. people vote for the major party. so you cannot discount gantz’s voters without presuming. true gantz himself evinced little to be enthusiastic about as a liberal zionist, but many voted for him/bluewhite to contribute to the anti bibi movement. but as far as winning elections you are right. the blips of rabin in 92 and barak in 99 were just that blips. (the sharon-olmert kadima blip was an anomaly of a different sort). this election should bring home the solid majority of the israeli right wing.

    • Mooser on April 10, 2019, 12:35 pm

      ” many people could have voted for gantz even if in their heart they are herzog.” “WJ”

      Yes, it is pretty hard to tell Gantz and Herzog apart. And the levers in the voting booth look so much alike!

    • annie on April 10, 2019, 1:57 pm

      many voted for him/bluewhite to contribute to the anti bibi movement

      i’d posit many voted for him who were pissed at Avi Gabbay. did you see the video of him blowing off livni? i’m no fan of livni (at all) but i would imagine she always had a little bulk of followers (after all she won more votes than netanyahu at one time). after he dismissed her so rudely she withdrew hatnuah from the election. so he thought he’d “win” by shitting on both palestinian citizens of israel (as yossi describes “as everyone remembered how he hounded Zouheir Bahloul, a moderate Israeli Palestinian MK, out of the party”) and the livni crowd. what an idiot. so their “heart” may not have been w/herzog at all, but just an anti gabbay crowd, similar to the sentiments of those who couldn’t vote for clinton after she (and the dnc) so blatantly screwed over sanders.

    • oldgeezer on April 10, 2019, 9:53 pm

      “this election should bring home the solid majority of the israeli right wing.”

      The solid majority of the Israeli barbaric, murderous and criminal right wing.

      Fixed it for you. The scum are running the water purification plant

  3. JLewisDickerson on April 10, 2019, 12:29 pm

    RE: “Then again, we don’t have the luxury of giving up, or the privilege of despairing. Stiff upper lip, then. It will be a long slog.” ~ Gurvitz

    MY COMMENT: Yes, indeed. These are very dark days.

    A Damsel In Distress (1937) – Stiff Upper Lip

  4. annie on April 10, 2019, 12:53 pm

    a couple questions. aside from general intimidation, i don’t really understand the purpose of hidden cameras at the polls. would somebody be tallying the results and keeping a database of which palestinian israelis voted? or how they voted? would they send out posses to harass them after the election? it just seems so weird.

    the other thing, and i noticed someone brought this up in a comment section at haaretz, the last time netanyahu called for new elections was when lieberman quit the coalition and took his party with him leaving likud without a majority. and with both gantz and likud having 35 each and netanyahu garnering 65 for his coalition, and lieberman’s party being 5 in that coalition, couldn’t he just pull that stunt anytime? just curious. how does that make netanyahu’s position secure?

    the results just look like the israel we know. nothing surprising. but i did find it sort of thrilling to see shaked and bennett humiliated. i think that was the highlight of the election from my limited vantage point– not that their replacements will be any better. her commercials, and that duet, pure schadenfreude seeing her go down as well as caroline glick who they had recruited.

    • Citizen on April 10, 2019, 1:29 pm

      Israel’s election: Minority Arabs in Israel object to cameras at polling centres to intimidate them

    • bcg on April 10, 2019, 1:34 pm

      ” i don’t really understand the purpose of hidden cameras at the polls.”

      I think I can answer that: if you’ve ever talked to soldiers from Breaking the Silence they’ll tell you that they’ve been trained – explicitly – to give the Palestinians the feeling that they’re being watched, they’re being chased, all the time – this is just part and parcel of the Israeli mindset. The whole camera thing is just a concrete manifestation of that mindset. Is it rational, did anyone actually sit down and think through exactly what they were hoping to accomplish with the cameras? Probably not.

      • annie on April 10, 2019, 2:09 pm

        thanks bcg and citizen, that’s what i figured — just checking if there was any other objective. reminds me of line in citizen’s link

        Ahmad Jamal Mahagny, 30, voting in the northern town of Umm al-Fahm later in the day, said: “I’m not sure what they were trying to do. Perhaps they wanted to disqualify the votes here.”

      • DaBakr on April 11, 2019, 1:53 am


        check again about shakid and bennett

    • oldgeezer on April 10, 2019, 10:30 pm

      I agree the defeat of shaked and bennet was wonderful. What do we know about those who replaced them. For me it’s nada.

    • Marnie on April 10, 2019, 11:04 pm

      ‘the results just look like the israel we know. nothing surprising. but i did find it sort of thrilling to see shaked and bennett humiliated. i think that was the highlight of the election from my limited vantage point’

      Yes, that’s exactly my feeling Annie. Am looking forward to her commercial for her latest fragrance – Pewwww – smells like dafeet.

      • annie on April 14, 2019, 12:48 pm

        smells like dafeet

        just saw this marnie! very funny ;)

    • zaid on April 11, 2019, 1:52 am

      Beside intimidation. I think it was his plan b.
      If he lost he will show some footage and interept it as violationa and claim the election is rigged so he jusst wanted to catch anything

      • annie on April 14, 2019, 12:50 pm

        ah, thanks zaid.

  5. Boris on April 10, 2019, 1:41 pm

    RE: The end of liberal Zionism.

    An old Soviet joke:

    Rabinovitz is asked why he did not come to the last Communist Party meeting.

    — If I knew it was the last meeting I would come myself and bring my entire family.

    So, is it the end of the end or just beginning of the end? I mean – how long are you going to milk it?

    Just asking…

    • eljay on April 10, 2019, 1:50 pm

      || Boris: … So, is it the end of the end or just beginning of the end? … ||

      It isn’t the end of Jewish / “Jewish State” colonialism, (war) crimes and supremacism, that’s for sure.

  6. bcg on April 10, 2019, 1:42 pm

    There’s a nice piece by Beinart at the Forward about the election that complements this (clear your browser history if necessary)-

    The Lesson Of Netanyahu’s Victory: Israel Will Not Change Without Pressure

    It will not return until subjugating millions of Palestinians becomes uncomfortable for Israeli Jews. First, Palestinians must stop serving as agents of their own oppression. Right now, the Palestinian Authority serves as Israel’s subcontractor in the West Bank: It picks up the garbage; it runs the schools; it represses dissent against both itself and Israel. When that changes—when the Palestinian Authority disbands and stops doing Israel’s dirty work—Israeli Jews will grow uncomfortable. They’ll grow uncomfortable because they’ll be forced to choose between chaos in the West Bank, which could threaten Israeli security, and direct occupation of the West Bank, which would require Israel 19 year olds to patrol every Palestinian city and town.

    • Marnie on April 10, 2019, 11:08 pm

      IMHO, israel won’t change until amerikkka does. There’s never been any reason for israel to change; administration after administration still cuts that welfare check every month and turns a blind eye to all of israel’s atrocities. If that ever changes, and it’s a huge if, israel will have to change., again, IMHO.

  7. JaapBo on April 10, 2019, 3:33 pm

    – for Palestinians there is one upside for the Netanyahu victory: he does not like large scale military actions; with Gantz in the lead a new “war” on Gaza would be more likely
    – why would you say the Israeli left shares our values? They organised the Nakba and many discriminatory laws. They don’t mind their racism as long as they can fool themselves (and others) that its not racism, but “security” or some other excuse

  8. JustJessetr on April 10, 2019, 8:02 pm

    How many times can MW claim that the death of Liberal Zionism is nigh? Especially when you see Israel as some Nazification project since the 1920’s?

    • Marnie on April 10, 2019, 11:09 pm

      I agree. There’s been a lot of good articles about the impending death of zionism and yet here we are still.

  9. Sibiriak on April 11, 2019, 1:56 am

    Netanyahu’s Brilliant Election Strategy Overcomes Corruption Indictments

    Discussion excerpt (emphasis added). “One state”– won’t be democratic, won’t include Gaza or all of the WB, and won’t mean absorbing lots of Palestinians into Israel:

    MARC STEINER: Israel is expanding by taking all of historic Palestine under their rule completely. I mean, is there now something bei[esn’t allow that to happen? Does this election say anything about that? […]

    LIA TARACHANSKY: Well, I mean, I think that what you are describing is actually the Naftali Bennett one-state solution. Naftali Bennett in 2013, just before he ran, he was already angling for government, to be a politician. As you know, he is a successful high tech businessman, entrepreneur, who sold his company and became a millionaire, after which he entered politics. He’s a very ideological, very dedicated, very serious man who actually didn’t make it into this election because of the same raised votes situation.

    However, already back then he proposed a one-state solution, which at the time–which was only five years ago–was seen so outrageous to the press and is now openly discussed. And his idea was basically that you give–you push as many Palestinians as possible in the rural areas of the West Bank into the urban areas. You surround those urban areas with bigger walls. And then those Palestinians left behind in the rural areas, which is the vast majority of the West Bank, the farmers, you give them citizenship. And according to his estimate it shouldn’t be more than 70,000 people.

    And then the vast majority of Palestinians that live in the West Bank would then be living in walled ghettos, forever connected with a system of roads that keeps them connected, but essentially makes their life there nearly impossible. And then Israel can claim sovereignty over the West Bank, settling forever this 50-year-old question of how you can conquer a land without giving any rights to its people.

    You can conquer land and keep the people that live on that land in a limbo, which is what the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem has been.

    However, from the get-go, the idea with Gaza was that it is just too many people, and there is not enough assets in this territory on the coast, in the Gaza Strip, to keep it. There’s no reason to give those people any access to Israel, and to claim sovereignty over that land.

    And so the question has always been how do we convince the Egyptians to take that land? And now what we’ve seen with General Sisi’s government is that in fact the Egyptians are quite warm to the idea, and have been hinting that they are willing to take Gaza.

    Which means that with East Jerusalem being more or less completely annexed in the reality on the ground and in the words of the Americans; the Golan Heights, almost the same situation; Israel claiming sovereignty suddenly over the West Bank is not something that I think is going to lead to profound changes on the ground, because of course Israel today is the only sovereign power that dictates the lives of all of the Palestinians.

  10. Tom Suarez on April 11, 2019, 5:48 am

    Unless I misunderstand Mr. Gurvitz, this piece is still predicated on the fiction that Zionism or Israel ever meant anything other than ethnic subjugation and ethnic cleansing. “The end of liberal Zionism” is merely the death of an oxymoron.

  11. Keith on April 11, 2019, 11:20 am

    YOSSI GURVITZ- “…the interesting story coming out of this election is the wiping out of the democratic bloc.”

    What you don’t mention is the financial support for the various factions from American Jewish Zionist fat-cats and how this effected the outcome. Netanyahu has long been the darling of American Jewish fat-cats and his policies have long been what they have wanted. Arguably, Israel reflects the worldview of American Zionist Jews with deep pockets capable of influencing both US and Israel politics. It is the nature of capitalism.

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